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Progress in Preventing Childhood Obesity: How Do We Measure Up?
. that promote regular physical activity and reduce sedentary behaviors (IOM, 2005). Although some efforts are under way to develop products that enhance opportunities for physical activity, additional investment in both the development and the promotion of products that support increased physical activity levels is needed.
Using home videogame systems is a sedentary activity that has been associated with a higher body mass index (BMI) level in children who spend more time engaging in such activities (Stettler et al., 2004; Vandewater et al., 2005). Recently, the videogame industry has used its creativity to increase children’s awareness about obesity. The annual Games for Health (2006), a conference produced by The Serious Games Initiative, convenes game manufacturers to focus on health-related issues. Such products as a fantastic voyage-style adventure called Escape from Obeez City have been developed in which children explore the impact of obesity on the human body (Big Red Frog, 2006; Brown, 2006). Another example is the videogame Squire’s Quest!, which is designed to allow children to earn their way to knighthood through such tasks as creating fruit- and vegetable-containing recipes. Two separate evaluations of this videogame found that children playing the game increased their fruit and vegetable consumption by one serving compared with the levels of fruit and vegetable consumption of children who did not play the game (Baranowski et al., 2003; Cullen et al., 2005).
Interactive videogames, also called physical gaming, are electronic games that use the players’ physical activity as input in playing the game. The media has paid special attention to physical games such as DanceDance Revolution®, in which players use a floor pad to mimic dance moves shown on a screen. The most recent version of this videogame informs players about how many calories they burn in each dance session (Brown, 2006). Interactive videogames for the PlayStation2® computer entertainment system use the EyeToy™, a tiny camera that projects an image of th game player directly onto the screen. These methods of physical gaming, however, often require the purchase of an additional piece of equipment, such as a dance pad or a camera, which adds to the cost of the system, thereby limiting the potential audience. Nevertheless, innovative approaches to physical gaming are being developed and offer promising possibilities.
Some companies are beginning to produce branded physical activity equipment for children and youth. For example, McDonald’s Corporation has started a new multicategory licensing initiative called McKIDS™ that unifies its branded product line including toys, interactive videos, books, and DVDs to reflect active lifestyles (McDonald’s Corporation, 2003). The McKIDS™ line of products offers branded bikes, scooters, skateboards, outdoor play equipment, and interactive DVDs. There is a need for evaluations that assess how these products are promoted to children and youth